Pictured is a quick release clamp on the top of a BH-55 Ballhead.
Trying to attach your camera onto the threaded post you find on top of many tripods, is a slow, awkward process that will have you leaving your tripod in the car. By using a quick release clamp on your ballhead (pictured above), makes attaching your camera, or lens a quick and easy process. All you need is the corresponding metal camera plate mounted to the bottom of your camera, or any lenses that may have a tripod mount.
The plate is a very simple device, it is basically a flat piece of metal with dove-tails on the edges. This plate slides into the clamp, and allows a quick secure connection between camera and tripod ballhead.
Now in the days of film, my camera was light enough that a simple flat plate on the bottom of my camera was all I used. If I wanted to shot in the vertical position, I would cantilever the camera off to the side as pictured below.
Today, it seems that many digital cameras are extra heavy, and having the camera off to the side isn’t very stable. Now I use a L bracket, which effectively puts a plate on two sides of the camera. This allows you to mount the camera in either a horizontal or vertical position, and still keep the camera centered over the ball head.
There is an additional benefit with a L bracket. With an ordinary plate, even though you moved the camera just a short distance when going from vertical to horizontal, it often meant recomposing the scene. With a L bracket, the lens is kept in the same position – if the scene allows it, you can quickly photograph both a vertical and horizontal without recomposing. Of course, most scenes are not that simple. If I don’t have to recompose when moving from horizontal to vertical, I’m probably not working my compositions hard enough.
Again, these specialized pieces of equipment aren’t cheap – I imagine the market for such items is fairly small. I have always purchased my plates from Really Right Stuff, and a typical plate costs about $55, and a L bracket runs about $180. Really Right Stuff does a wonderful job with their L plates. They are perfectly designed for each camera giving you full access to any buttons or compartments on your camera – nothing is blocked.
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